Never before in history have NATO, G7 and EU summits been held on the same day and in the same place, and in the presence of the US president. However, in view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the heads of state and government of the EU, the transatlantic defense alliance and the world’s economically strongest democracies deemed it necessary to establish a historically unique sign of unity at NATO headquarters in Brussels, to demonstrate their readiness to defend themselves and promise more support to Ukraine. There are three important questions that the West must clarify at this time of crisis.
Will the West intervene in the Ukraine war if Russia uses NBC-banned weapons there?
It is arguably not a good sign that US President Joe Biden has warned Russia of dire consequences if Vladimir Putin uses chemical warfare agents in Ukraine. Many other American warnings in this conflict that seemed exaggerated have come true. Biden has also prepared allies for the fact that there must be a response from the West next.
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It is questionable whether the previous stipulation, according to which no soldiers from the US or other NATO countries would not intervene militarily in Ukraine, would still apply. Because the secondary effects of the use of NBC weapons, that is, nuclear, biological or chemical warfare agents, can also affect people in NATO countries, even if Russia mainly wants to kill and electrocute Ukrainians with them. The wind could push the deadly cargo across the borders of Poland or Romania.
According to a New York Times report, the White House has created a task force, internally called the Tiger Team, to craft potential responses from the United States and its allies. Responses to a Russian attack on neighbors such as Georgia and Moldova or directly on NATO territory will also be discussed. There are members of parliament in the US demanding consequences for NATO, even if a Russian NBC mission takes place beyond the alliance’s borders.
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If Moscow uses tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, “everything is possible,” a senior government official told the newspaper, referring to the current stop sign on using its own soldiers against Russia. According to Joachim Krause of the Kiel University Institute for Security Policy, Russian military doctrine envisages resorting to threats of nuclear weapons and their use in regional wars in the event of foreseeable defeat in order to end the war on Russian terms.
According to this, the Russian military can use nuclear escalation as a means to ensure, after the occupation of foreign territory, “that no one dares to liberate the conquered territories or states again.” It remains to be seen what answers NATO will give. According to the Berlin coalition, it is more prudent not to publicly speculate on this at this time.
Will the West accept a total embargo on Russian energy?
Putin surprised many governments with his demand that in future Russian gas deliveries only be invoiced in rubles. Subsequently, more or less clear refusals came from the EU countries where dependence on Russian gas is currently particularly high. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in Brussels that all supply contracts provide for payment in Europe or in dollars.
On the sidelines of the EU summit, Italy’s head of government Mario Draghi also stressed that settlement in rubles should always be seen as a breach of contract. In Brussels, however, people are also aware that Putin could no longer deliver gas in the next step if the West does not respond to his demand for rubles.
However, there is no talk in the EU of a possible summit resolution according to which the community will resort to the harshest of all sanctions and impose an import ban on Russian energy supplies. According to EU diplomats, countries such as Poland and the Baltic states are likely to use Putin’s move to further bolster their demand to ban imports of gas, oil and coal from Russia.
Some EU member states, which have been hesitant until now, may change sides in favor of even tougher sanctions. However, according to the information, Putin’s latest demand for rubles has not changed the attitude of Germany and other member states that reject an import ban. The Czech Republic is one of the countries that share the position of the federal government.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala spoke out on Thursday against stopping power supplies. “We do not have enough alternative sources of supply, this applies not only to oil, but also to natural gas,” Fiala said to justify himself. A unanimous decision of the 27 EU member states is required to make a decision on an energy boycott.
At the EU summit, the federal government mainly wants to press for the closure of the loopholes in the sanctions that have already been imposed. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) had already raised this demand in a meeting with her EU counterparts earlier in the week. This is likely to apply in particular to those Russian oligarchs on sanctions lists who have so far been able to evade punitive measures.
During the consultations in Brussels, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) benefits from the fact that the US is also not pushing for an embargo on Russia’s energy supply. Instead, the EU and US wanted to agree on more sanctions, such as additional asset freezes and travel bans on individuals.
Even before the summit began, a high-ranking US official announced new sanctions against hundreds of members of the Russian parliament and other members of the Russian elite. According to the information, Russian arms companies and the Russian parliament as a whole should also be included in the sanctions list.
How united is the West in dealing with the refugee crisis?
There has been a breakthrough here, apparently preceded by a long fight. It was still unclear on Wednesday to what extent the United States would be involved in hosting refugees from Ukraine. Until then, their transfer or accommodation had been an exclusively European affair.
On Thursday, however, a transatlantic solidarity on this issue was also evident. Because the White House announced that the classic immigration country of the United States wanted to welcome up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. Canada and Great Britain have now also decided to participate.